Book 5: Saints and Sinners


by Monsignor Nico Bautista
Parish Priest, St. Maria Gorretti Parish
Pius XII Catholic Center, Manila

I am a Catholic priest.  I met Hilarion M. Henares Jr., or Larry for short, in the days before the EDSA Revolution, when I was pastor of the St. Alphonsus Mary de Ligouri Church in the Magallanes Village.  His parents and sister were my parishioners.  I once delivered a stinging homily about the need for a consciencitized citizenry to counter the oppressiveness of the mighty and powerful.  And lo and behold, the First Lady, Imelda Romualdez Marcos, came for mass the following Sunday.  So did Larry Henares, and that is how I met him.  He was even then an iconoclast who wrote thinly disguised attacks on the economic policies of Marcos and the IMF in the Bulletin Today, Business Day, and the Marcos crony press, and poking fun at the powers-that-be in the Mr&Ms Special Edition, the oppositionist press at the time.  I am a bit of an iconoclast myself, in the same way Larry Henares is a bit of a priest.

I say that because like every Jesuit-trained Atenean, Larry at one time wanted to enter the priesthood, inspired by the adventures of St. Francis Xavier in India and Japan, Edmund Campion in Elizabethan England, Matteo Ricci in China, Isaac Jogues and Jean de Brebeuf in Quebec.  His Jesuit mentors incredulously observed, “Do you really think, Larry, that the life of a priest is like those of Tarzan and Superman?” and ended Larry’s priestly vocation right then and there.

But Larry prides himself as “child of God and of Father Reuter,” and as such never follows the admonition to “avoid arguments about politics and religion.”  Time and again, as a columnist and a former member of the Sodality of Mary, he finds himself defending the Mother of God against born-again evangelists and fundamentalists.  Nobody, he says, can denigrate Our Lady, “My Mother,” in his presence, pointing out that his own mother was born on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, and was baptized Concepcion in her honor.  Then he stresses the need to re-establish the Mother Principle of Isis and Diana (along with Mary and Fatima, the daughter of Mohammed) that has kept the peace and avoided religious wars in the first 10,000 years of human history, before the Jews, Christians and Muslims came up with the Father Principle of a just and avenging God, of jihads, crusades, inquisitions and witch-hunts.

One day, Larry was browsing at the Thomas Jefferson Library in the late afternoon, since it was too late to go swimming and too early to have dinner.  He came across an article by Henry Kamm, editor of the New York Times  magazine, entitled “The Secret World of Opus Dei,” a mildly critical article so interesting that Larry had a photocopy made for himself.  That was at 6 PM.  At home half an hour later, he received a phone call from Jose Romero Jr., a close friend who identified himself as an Opus Dei, and asked Larry what he intended to do with the article.  “That was fast,” exclaimed Larry who never heard of Opus Dei before, “you guys must work in tandem with the CIA.  Let’s have lunch; I want to get the comments of an Opus Dei member on Kamm’s article.”

After lunch, Larry and Joe worked together to answer point by point the allegations of Henry Kamm, and Larry offered to share with Joe the authorship of the piece, reprinted in this book.  Joe in turn brought Larry around to attend the annual Opus Dei mass and get-together, even invited him to address the students in a Opus Dei Study Center.  The Spanish overlords of Opus Dei must have reverted back to form because a few days later, Joe asked not to be considered a co-author, and when the article came out in the Panorama magazine, a group of big-shots called upon Bulletin  to demand that Henares be banned for life and forever from writing in the magazine.  “These bullies do not care for an open, free, and unlimited debate as liberty demands.  All they want is to censor, to suppress, to ban, to proscribe, as tyrants do,” Larry exclaimed.

In the days and months that followed a plethora of books and articles on the Opus Dei was sent to Larry by priests and nuns of the Society of Jesus, Maryknoll, among others.  There was one particular magazine Icthys, published by the Association of Major Religious Organizations in the Philippines, which exposed the Opus Dei as an instrument of the CIA in a coup d’etat against the democratically elected government of Chile, and the dastardly murder of its president Salvador Allende.  Larry wrote about it in an article also reprinted in this book.  Pandora’s Box finally opened on the Spanish Inquisition.

Also in this book is a series written by Dr. Esteban Latorre, who was once a priest-numerary of the Opus Dei, number six in its totem pole of rank, writing about his experiences and eventual resignation with poignancy and gentle humor.  It may be that the writings of Henares and Latorre has changed the Opus Dei in the Philippines for the better, in the words of Larry, making it less draconian, less oppressive, less contemptuous of the unfortunate, more tolerant of family relationships, than it has been in other countries like Spain and Germany as described by many books written by former Opus Dei members.  Opus Dei members, including his brother Father Bobby, who were forced to treat him like a leper, were finally allowed to talk to Teban Latorre.

I remember how some of them would question the practice of giving Holy Communion into the hands of the comunicant.  I would have admired them more had they come to campaign in behalf of street children.  But they set me on the same road that Larry and Teban Latorre were to take: Liberation Theology and its preferential option for the poor.  I remember Larry poking fun and pun about certain churches named after the very rich who financed their construction, thinly disguised as saints.  The Church of St. Alphonsus Mary de Ligouri in Magallanes, which was financed by the family of Don Alfonso Zobel.  Sta. Susanna Church was built in the Susanna Subdivision owned by the family of Señora Susanna Madrigal.  The Sanctuario de San Antonio in Forbes Park was built by the Ayala family of Don Antonio Roxas.  The Church of St. Andrew in Bel-Air was financed by Don Andres Soriano Jr.  The Church of St. James the Great in Ayala Alabang, was financed by the family of Don Jaime Zobel — and added Larry, with the blessing of Jaime Cardinal Sin.

But Larry Henares, a denizen of Dasmariñas Village, who probably has more money than he can spend in ten lifetimes, is committed to the preferential option for the poor.  He wrote a front page series on the historic document “Road to Damascus: Kairos and Conversion,” exposing the schism that divides all Christians, whether Catholic or not, into rich and poor, powerful and powerless, and redefining the role of Jesus Christ in the modern world.

Teban Latorre got married, sired a son, and is now in Malacañang as the executive assistant of Larry Henares, Presidential Consultant on National Affairs.  As priests he and the undersigned were the only ones trusted by the late banking tycoon, Anthony Aguirre of Banco Filipino.  As classmate to the high and mighty (see the list in his article) and former Father Confessor to the Opus Dei bigwigs (“what deep dark secrets are hidden behind the seal of his confessional!!” Larry would say), he wields considerable influence in our contemporary society.  Ever the conservative Catholic (como un pulpo en el garaje), and belonging to a wealthy family, he joins Larry and me as an advocate of the unfortunate.  He writes a column on religion and morals, in Abante  on the same page as the sex-and-sin column of Xaviera Xerxes, and another column in the Manila Standard.

The story goes that two nationalists, Alejandro Lichauco and Hernando Abaya, somehow offended the friends of Jaime Cardinal Sin, and were fired from their newspaper columns.  Whereupon they challenged Larry Henares to twit the Cardinal too.  Larry wrote a hilarious piece called “Jaime the Eighth Cardinal Sin,” was invited to have breakfast with His Eminence, and then wrote another, “The Cardinal is a Mortal Sin.”  Goes to show what gentle humor can do to dull the sharp edges of controversy.  Larry says that the Cardinal is one of the funniest jokers in the country.

So is Larry.  In his journey to God, he can nevertheless twit the Spanish Dominicans (“A real one?  Alive?  Without missing parts and in good working condition?  I thought they were already extinct!”); and the Jesuits who were his mentors.  He can reach back 1,400 years and laugh at the greatest fraud and practical joke of all time, the Constitutum Constantini, by which the Catholic Church and the papacy gained ascendancy over the rest of the world.  He can with great humor usher Bernie Villegas into the Massacre of the Rats in Mindanao and of the Muslim children in the Crusades of 1090 AD.  He can even joke with God, observing that in all the pictures of the Madonna and Child, Our Lady looked more wistful than bursting with motherly enthusiasm, and when asked why so, she answered, “Well, to tell you the truth, I was hoping it would be a girl.”

In his journey to God, Larry can be many things: radical or conservative, a child with a sense of wonder or an adult with hard-nosed cynicism, a crusader defending a lost cause, a prophet of doom or a cock-eyed optimist.  We invite you to join him in this journey.

Monsignor Nico Bautista